How I Cook My Thanksgiving Turkey…
Thanksgiving is next Thursday and I decided to re-post how I cook my Thanksgivingving turkey with you! This is my tried an true recipe that always provides a moist turkey, even the breast. To get a juicier turkey use fresh rather than a frozen one.
I cook my turkey breast side down…and cook by “temperature” NOT cooking time! Cooking a breast side down provides more even cooking. Since the thigh is exposed to direct heat which evens out the cooking time that happens between dark and white meat cooked breast side up conventionally.
A fresh turkey will give you a juicer one than frozen, but everyone has their preference so use what you like. Here’s a link to on my post for a Thanksgiving Timetable for getting everything done on time and brining and a few other recipes.
Never use the pop -up and remove it since its plastic and can melt into your turkey, ugh!
The #1 Reason Your Turkey Isn’t Cooked Properly
The number one reason your turkey isn’t cooked properly, after figuring out the timing, is because you did not remove your turkey 1 1/2 HOURS to 3 hours before cooking (1 1/2 hours for a 15 pounds the larger the turkey the longer it needs to come to room temperature)!
Look at it this way..timing is based on the fact that the meat is close to room temperature. If you don’t remove your turkey it’s internal temperature is higher. That’s a huge difference in total cooking time…it’s the time it takes to bring the internal temp to where it should have been before putting in the oven!
The #2 Reason Your Turkey Isn’t Cooked Properly
Another BIG mistake is to determine when your turkey is done by a “POP UP“. First off they are unreliable, usually leaving your turkey overcooked! The popup is made out of NYLON, not what I want melting in my turkey. The best method is to use an accurate meat thermometer.
How To Determine Timing
Doing a rough calculation, of how much time it should take to cook the turkey helps to know approximately when to put it in the oven. I use 13-14 minutes per pound (15 -16 tends to be too long for me). The time it takes to cook a turkey depends on the size of your bird and that it is at room temperature before cooking (see above). 90 minutes (to bring to room temp) + 13-14 minutes per pound + 30 minutes (I do 45 minutes and use this time to “reheat” sides) resting before carving.
To Brine Or Not To Brine
To brine or not to brine, I do, but I let others decide what they want to do. There are two types of brines click for recipes: To Brine or Not To Brine PDF.
I rub either olive oil or butter over the entire bird and then liberally season the turkey with salt, fresh pepper and thyme, inside the cavity and out. If you truss your bird season before trussing (provides even seasoning).
I don’t truss my bird because I feel it inhibits heat from circulating and is basically done for “appearance”. I do tie the legs together and bend the chicken wings under. So it’s up to you.
Also, I don’t cook stuffing inside the turkey because it prolongs cooking time.
Preheat oven to 400°F and place your turkey on the rack, breast side down, uncovered for 20-30 minutes to brown. Then reduce the heat to 325°F for the next 2 hours. Then reduce to 225°F until done (depending on the size of your turkey, anywhere from a half hour to an hour or more).
I continue cooking at 225°F until the internal thigh temperature reaches 165°. You can use an instant-read thermometer but you have to open the oven to do this releasing all the heat. This takes a while for the oven to get back up to temperature. I use this type…
Polder’s Digital In-oven thermometer/timer. Stick the metal probe inside the CENTER of the turkey thigh (make sure it doesn’t touch the bone) and the thermometer attaches to your stove (if magnetic) or sits on your counter. I set the temperature the to 160° and once it reaches it starts beeping. ***Right now Aldi’s has a model very similar to Polder’s above, for $9.99.
Ok, I know what your thinking! Well I want the breast skin brown, right? I prefer moist turkey breast over dark skin that is on the rest of the bird. But you can, once the turkey is close to done, turn the turkey over using a wooden spoon inside the cavity and a mitt in your other hand for about for 5 to 10 minutes (or long enough to brown) at 500°F. This can be messy, but hubs grab the breast end by wings and I grab the legs, with potholders, and flip over. If browning be careful not to dry out the breast.
Make sure you let your turkey rest for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Here’s a great video from Alton Brown for carving a turkey.
There are many ways to prepare your Thanksgiving Turkey. There are traditions, this, for me, provides a very moist and delicious turkey every time.
How do you cook your Thanksgiving dinner?
Cooking Turkey Breast Side Down
15 Pound Turkey
Preheat oven to 400°F
Make sure your turkey is thawed and has sat at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours (up to 3 hours for large birds).
Rub your turkey with olive oil or butter all over the entire skin. Season your turkey with salt, fresh pepper and thyme inside and out. Add onion, celery, and carrot with 1/2 fresh lemon inside cavity too.
Tuck wings under and tie legs together, place your turkey breast side down uncovered for 20-30 minutes to brown. Then reduce the heat to 325°F for the next 2 hours and reduce to 225°F until done (depending on the size of your turkey, anywhere from a half hour to an hour or more). **Note for smaller birds cook at 325 for 1 1/2 hours and then 225 until done. For a larger bird cook at 325 for 2 hours and 225 until done.
Continue cooking at 225°F this until my internal thigh temperature reaches 160°, just keep checking your external temperature. Resting for 30 to 45 minutes will bring your turkey up to 165°.
If you want to brown the turkey breast, raise the temperature to 500. Just before the turkey is close to being done, turn the turkey over using a wooden spoon inside the cavity and a mitt in your other hand for about for 5 to 10 minutes (or long enough to brown) at 500°F. This can be messy. While hubs grab the breast and wings and I grab the legs flip over. If you brown your turkey be careful not to dry out the breast.
Let rest no less than 30 minutes. I lest my rest 45 and use this time to reheat all my sides.